With a strong group of returning players and a host of fresh faces, the men’s soccer team is concentrating on setting short-term goals and, most importantly, building a new, successful team.

Seven members of the class of 2013 will don the Bulldog Blue this year, adding depth to an already talented team. Last year, the Elis ended the season 7-7-3, taking down Ivy League foes Cornell, Brown and Columbia and trapping Princeton in a 2-2 stalemate in their final match.

“In any class, some are more game-ready than others,” head coach Brian Tompkins said. “I expect some [freshmen] will make an impact right away and others will develop over the season. They’re really going to give us cover in several positions.”

To prepare for this season, the Bulldogs’ preseason training was rigorous, concentrating on agility, endurance and overall fitness.

“In preseason, we all started to re-assimilate and adjust to the speed of play,” captain and midfielder Jordan Raybould ’10 said. “It’s all about coming together, gelling and learning how to read each other’s cues again. More guys came in and passed the fitness test than I remember in the past.”

Though the Elis maintain a strong offense, they lost many of their defensive players last May. Filling that void will be a top priority.

“We’re treating all aspects of the game as if they need special attention, with such a young team,” Tompkins said. “Defensively, we graduated a lot of them so that’s an area we really need to concentrate on.”

But the Bulldogs still have a tough season ahead of them. In addition to their annual Ivy League rivals, they will face an especially tough non-conference lineup, including UConn, Boston University and SMU.

“That’s the way we like it,” Tompkins said. “We want to measure ourselves against the best and be known as the team that always takes on the best. My goal is always to be a better team at the end than we are right now.”

The Elis’ first test of the season is Saturday at home against Quinnipiac at 7 p.m. at Reese Stadium.